Health Workers To Take Industrial Action For The First Time In 32 Years

NHS Olivia

Le système de santé britannique est l’une des institutions les plus importantes aux yeux des habitants de la Grande-Bretagne mais il est désormais en crise et les réformes gouvernementales ne font qu’indigner les Britanniques qui s’inquiètent de voir le système s’effondrer

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On September 18th, Sonia Powell, a grandmother, died at the back of an ambulance after waiting for more than half an hour outside a hospital in Wales, waiting to be transferred from the scene of the accident and to an emergency department. The hospital staff was overwhelmed by the unexpectedly large number of patients and unable to attend to her. The family of the deceased accused the cutbacks in health services that recently generated several patient care scandals.

Nowadays the National Health Service is under threat, because of the new demographic situation, with the ageing population the system costs more and more and the government is struggling to find the money to fund it. It is facing a £30bn gap in its finances by 2020. Therefore the 2012 Health and Care Social Act reorganised the system in order to reduce its cost. The reforms implemented with this act have led to a massive privatisation of the system and staff cuts: £11bn worth of the NHS has been put to sale and 35,000 staff axed. Britons are worried that all this is leading to the end of their cherished NHS. It indeed created the current decline in system efficiency as shown by the rising number of rejected surgery requests, the growing time on waiting lists and so on. Moreover the privatisation prevents people with low wages from having access to full medical aid.

Besides, the reorganisation of the NHS has demoralised and demotivated the staff and this has had tremendous impact on the quality of patient care. Since the reform their pay has been frozen while inflation has continued to rise and the value of NHS pay has fallen by around 12%. The government’s mistreatment of the health workers has angered them and this is why for the first time in over 32 years the Unison NHS workers – the second largest NHS trade union in the country –  has voted to back a strike to demonstrate against the decision of health secretary Jeremy Hunt that ruled out the 1% universal pay raise for health workers.

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This decision is controversial since an industrial action in this particular field is quite frightening to citizens who worry about the already problematic quality of patient care. But of course the trade union declared that it would do everything to minimize the impact on the patients. Staff members of important fields such as health or security, when on strike, are easily accused of selfishness because of the general negative impact it could have on the population while they are supposed to have qualities of compassion, empathy and selflessness. But with the inflation and their frozen pay it would be unfair to lash out at them. Moreover industrial actions are already very rare in this field.

Recent figures published by the polling firm ComRes show that 60% of Britons are willing to pay more income tax as long as they can be sure it goes directly to the NHS. Concerning income tax those are the highest figures since the early 2000s. Therefore political parties should take into account the fact that its funding should continue to be discussed and not simply cut back because this institution is highly valued by the people of the United Kingdom who are extremely concerned about its financial woes.

Olivia LI

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